A comparison of aggressive-rejected and nonaggressive-rejected children's interpretations of self-directed and other-directed rejection.
The hypothesis that aggressive-rejected children are unaware of their social status because they are self-protective when processing negative peer feedback was tested in 3 studies. In Study 1, fourth-grade girls and boys were asked to name peers they liked or disliked, as well as peers they thought liked or disliked them. Comparisons of aggressive-rejected, nonaggressive-rejected, and average status groups revealed that aggressive-rejected children were more unrealistic in their assessments of their social status than were nonaggressive-rejected children. In Study 2, rejected and average boys identified in Study 1 were asked to name who they thought liked or disliked other children from their classroom. Comparisons of perceived and actual nominations for peers revealed that aggressive-rejected children were able to assess the social status of others as well as did nonaggressive-rejected and average status children. Because the difficulties aggressive-rejected children demonstrated in Study 1 did not generalize to judging the status of others in Study 2, the self-protective hypothesis was supported. Study 3 provided a parallel test of this hypothesis under more controlled conditions. Subjects from Study 2 viewed other children receiving rejection feedback from peers in videotaped interactions and received similar feedback themselves from experimental confederates. While all subjects rated self-directed feedback somewhat more positively than other-directed feedback, aggressive-rejected subjects had the largest self-favoring discrepancy between their judgments of self- and other-directed feedback. These findings also suggest that aggressive-rejected children may make self-protective "errors" when judging other children's negative feelings about them. Ethnicity differences in evaluating peer feedback emerged in Studies 1 and 3, raising questions about the impact of minority status on children's evaluations of rejection feedback.
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